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About the study
The Twelftree/Twelvetree(s) surname study aims to research all occurrences of this last name worldwide. I first became interested when researching my own family and discovered that my maternal grandmother's maiden name was Twelftree. This set me off on search to find out where the name came from. In analysing the data to form family trees I also discovered people with these surnames across the world who had made a name for themselves in a variety of arenas, such as theology, the arts, science and education.
My grandmother Ethel Maud Twelftree (1888-1971)
Research carried out by Frederick John Twelftree (1891-1996) and deposited with The Society of Genealogy in 1992 to celebrate his 100th birthday identified several variants of the surname, as follows:-
- Northamptonshire favoured Tweltricke, the earliest found being in 1527.
- At Irchester Tweltricks lived for the whole of the 17th Century.
- In 1593 Twelvetrick, and in 1626 Twelvetrix were found in Lincolnshire.
- In Leicestershire villages around Melton Mowbray in 1572-1600 the name weas Tweltrigg, 1600-1678 Tweltrick, 1711 Tweltridge and in 1719 Twelvetridge.
No proof was found at the time that these people should have had, at one time, 'tree' as their name ending.
- In Bythorn, Huntingdonshire at the baptism of Thomas, son of Nicholas and Mary Tweltrick 21st June 1663 is the earliest ancestor for my maternal grandmother who was also born in Bythorn in 1888.
- In Newton Bromswold, Northamptonshire, is the baptism of Robert, son of Robert and Elizabeth Twelftree on 4th August 1678.
- Finally, in Diddington, Huntingdonshire is the burial of Thomas Twelltree in December 1690.
(NB: Huntingdonshire is now part of Cambridgeshire and borders Northamptonshire in the west)
As can be seen from the previous section families with the surname Twelftree or Twelvetrees and variants seem to come from the modern day counties around The Wash. Is it possible that they arrived by sea and entered these counties via the rivers Ouse, Welland and Nene? We may never know.
"The Wash is the large indentation in the coastline of Eastern England that separates the curved coast of East Anglia from Lincolnshire. It is a large bay with three roughly straight sides meeting at right angles, each about 15 miles (25 km) in length. The eastern coast of the Wash is entirely within Norfolk, and extends from a point a little north of Hunstanton in the north to the mouth of the River Great Ouse at King's Lynn in the south. The opposing coast, which is roughly parallel to the east coast, runs from Gibraltar Point to the mouth of the River Welland, all within Lincolnshire. The southern coast runs roughly northwest-southeast, connects these two river mouths and is punctuated by the mouth of a third river, the River Nene."
As for the meaning of the name several have been put forward:-
- The family lived near 12 trees. Although initially looks like a possibility, with the other derivations it seems unlikely.
- A corruption of ‘Elm Tree’.
- “Old Occupations” article in Family Tree Magazine dated May 1999 by Laurie Woods on farming in the Lincolnshire Fenlands refers to a ‘tool tree maker’ who was someone making wooden handles for hoes, pitchforks, spades, etc. As most of the Twelftree/Twelvetree(s) men were carpenters this is a possibility.
- With endings such as ‘trix, ‘trick and ‘trigg and the concentration of these endings in Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, could it have originated in France?
- From “Discovering Surnames” by J W Freeman:-
- “The well-fed, contented-looking peasant was known among his friends as Wellfitt,…..”
- "Trigg was a surname that was first found in Norfolk and Yorkshire, from the Scandinavian tryggr – true, trustworthy or faithful; ……”
- “Old English trik described a cheater or deceiver, a nickname given to one of dubious business principles.”
- “The Anglo-Saxons knew a young sheep as a tegga. It was soon used as a nickname, probably for one who was either stupid or frisky.
- “Other surnames deriving from medieval entertainers include Tredgett, Tredjitt and Trudgett from the medieval English trigit, meaning to juggle or deceive depending on their personality. This led to the surnames Tegg and Tigg.”
Distribution of the name